Hacking Hysteria a Precursor to Censorship?

By Frank Whalen

As the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement continues to struggle along amid violent crackdowns on the part of local, state and federal authorities, those who decry the lack of immediate results are gearing up for the next show of dissatisfaction, one that could be far more proactive. However, it could also lead to the labeling of those involved in this burgeoning populist movement as terrorists.

In this day and age, the term “terrorist” has been bandied about and applied so often that it has almost lost the edge of fear it once generated. But the dictionary definition pales in comparison to the application by law enforcement and a slew of politicians looking to appear tough on terrorism and anxious to exploit any fear they can generate.

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ABC News out of San Francisco recently interviewed a computer hacker calling himself Jake, who revealed his plan to hijack the nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) feed in order to distribute messages of support for OWS while also planting seeds of chaos. Passing his scheme off to the hacker group Anonymous, Jake said they could send a “War of theWorlds” message across EAS.

“For example,” he began, “you send a message saying there were 20 dirty bombs or something like that, [and if they] were detonated it would cause people to have a great deal of anxiety about things.”

The popular technology magazine Computerworld followed it up with the point that law enforcement could easily take action, stating: “The new wording of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) would already make criminals of most of us” in regard to our normal online interactions.

FEMA issued a statement responding to Jake’s interview in which they refuted his claims: “The Emergency Alert System already has adequate safety and security measures in place to ensure that it will only be used by appropriate officials as a way to communicate with the American people in the event of a real emergency.”

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Interestingly enough, just days before, FEMA attempted a well-publicized, first-ever nationwide test of the EAS feed. The problem was, the exercise was a complete failure, working well in some locales but not in others. Radio stations in some cities had successful tests, while others in the same city only miles away experienced minutes of dead air or other inconsistencies. If these tests are any indicator of how the government will
respond in case of a real emergency, the public should be quite alarmed.

This abject failure by FEMA immediately preceding public claims of weaknesses in the EAS is intriguing. As AFP has extensively reported,  high-ranking officials have been cryptically warning of an inevitable attack by cyber terrorists while hinting about the measures necessary to take control and keep our American way of life safe. The fact that Anonymous has been able to gain legendary status as a group of successful hackers  that supports OWS and the Wikileaks disclosure of classified government documents put them in a position of trust among the masses.

With the economy already in shambles, is it possible the government is gearing up for a crackdown on First Amendment free speech rights in the United States? Critics of the government fear this could make China look good compared to the United States, the purported freedom capital of the world.

Frank Whalen has been a radio talk show host for the past 17 years, and worked as a consultant for Maxim magazine. For more news and views from Frank, see www.frankwhalenlive.com.